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The Coming Energy Turnaround In Germany

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the bratwurst-is-a-renewable-energy-source dept.

Earth 394

An anonymous reader writes "Germany has decided to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 and embark on an energy turnaround that focuses on large increases in sustainable energy production. What will it take in terms of investments, and will it mean cost hikes for German consumers? Will it really mean more jobs in the 'green energy' sector? Quoting: 'Total investment over the next decade for such an energy turnaround is estimated to be roughly €200 billion (or almost $290 billion). ... At the moment, more than 20 new coal-fired power plants are being planned or already under construction; together, they would achieve a total output of 10 gigawatts and could, in terms of power supply, replace nuclear power plants that are still operational. But coal-fired power plants do not fit into the concept of the sustainable energy turnaround that the government has put forward.'"

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"Ahem" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37357918)

Fusion is nuclear.

Re:"Ahem" (2)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#37357982)

Candle makers across Europe are building up their inventory.

Re:"Ahem" (2)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359382)

I wonder if it's premature to short the euro? If Germany really does follow through it can't help but pull down the value of the euro which brings up the question of who'll bail out Greece the next time they spend their way towards oblivion?

Be patient (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#37357920)

coal-fired power plants do not fit into the concept of the sustainable energy

You're just not thinking long-term.

Re:Be patient (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358034)

You're just not thinking long-term.

I think the German government has the same problem, like that time where they decided they should shut down all their nuclear power plants.

Re:Be patient (2)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358046)

Sure! Let's bury a few billion tons of plant and animal matter today. Put it under high pressure. We'll call for it in a couple million years.

Or not..

Re:Be patient (3, Interesting)

hot soldering iron (800102) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359090)

Close, but you're thinking like someone untrained in technology. You did get the "Put it under high pressure" part right, though. You put it in a pressure cooker, and after initial startup, the generated methane and other hydrocarbons will power the process. The current iteration of this technology is called "Thermal De-polymerization", and can convert raw bio-waste into number 2 diesel fuel in about 24 hours. There was a pilot plant set up outside Jefferson City, Missouri, to process waste from a turkey processing plant. It was shut down due to "the smell that came from it". Have you ever been around a poultry processing plant? I would have shut the poultry plant down first, if that was a legit reason.

Another technology, called "producer gas" during WWII, will take just about any bio-waste, and by controlled combustion, create carbon monoxide, a fuel that burns at over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit. The modern version of this is currently being explored by "fringe science enthusiasts" as "Bingo fuel". They use a carbon arc for rapid breakdown of water and bio-matter into hydrocarbon fuel. Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen. That was the "secret" of the urban legend of the Water Engine. Put in water, and the destruction of the carbon electrodes by the arc created gaseous fuel.

These technologies exist, in economically viable forms, right now. Unfortunately, vested interests (energy and petroleum) could afford to "influence" politicians to shut down this dangerous competition with pocket change from their couch cushions. If Germany gets hold of this, and develops it into "plug and play bio-reactor refineries" to use instead of waste treatment plants, or land-fills, they'll become major energy technology players.

Re:Be patient (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358156)

"Long term" in politics means "after my next term." To a politician, 2022 seems like a million bajillion years. They are in fact thinking "long term." Specifically they're thinking long term in the way they always think: it will be someone else's problem by then.

Re:Be patient (3, Insightful)

VitaminB52 (550802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358256)

They are in fact thinking

Why do you say politicians are thinking, given all the evidence to the contrary?

Re:Be patient (1)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358522)

Well said. You are so right.

Re:Be patient (2)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359216)

"Long term" in politics means "after my next term." To a politician, 2022 seems like a million bajillion years. They are in fact thinking "long term." Specifically they're thinking long term in the way they always think: it will be someone else's problem by then.

One more argument for monarchy.

Re:Be patient (1)

Kvasio (127200) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358362)

Oh, common, ex-chancellor Schroeder thought about his financial future for several years and secured his financial future with Gasprom.

Re:Be patient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358532)

He thought long-term but humanity was no longer in it.

Re:Be patient (2)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358602)

I hope your tag line is a joke.

Re:Be patient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358632)

coal-fired power plants do not fit into the concept of the sustainable energy

You're just not thinking long-term.

Did you mean to title your post: "Be THE patient"?

Re:Be patient (0)

lseltzer (311306) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358634)

>>If humanity is to survive, we must pledge to eliminate all carbon dioxide from our atmosphere by 2030 Humans must buy carbon offsets for the privilege of exhaling. They can choose not to exhale and sell their offsets instead.

Re:Be patient (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358990)

>>If humanity is to survive, we must pledge to eliminate all carbon dioxide from our atmosphere by 2030 Humans must buy carbon offsets for the privilege of exhaling. They can choose not to exhale and sell their offsets instead.

So there's this movie about someone in 2030 who is having the clerk retry a failed credit card transaction. It's called Waiting to Exhale

Backup and fill-in (2, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 3 years ago | (#37357966)

Most of the green energy sources are not viable by themselves. They're too unstable. Wind gusts cause surges for wind power. Solar doesn't produce anything at night. The only one that sounds like it might be viable is wave energy, and that only on shorelines that are never flat.

So to fill in, you need nuclear, coal, or gas plants.

Re:Backup and fill-in (5, Informative)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358024)

Solar doesn't produce anything at night.

Don't limit yourself to solar panels. They have solar collectors that concentrate energy onto molten salt that never cools. Energy is added during the day but small amounts of heat are used to power turbines throughout the day/night.

http://inhabitat.com/worlds-first-molten-salt-solar-plant-produces-power-at-night/ [inhabitat.com]

Re:Backup and fill-in (0)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358108)

And after just a few short years, there's a tremendous loss in efficiency as the mirrors used to collect all that sunlight become dirty and pitted. Same problem with solar panels, actually, but not quite as bad since it's quite a bit easier to clean and replace simple mirrors than solar panels. Solar panels take a lot to build in the first place, and they're not the cleanest things to build either.

Build a nice good old nuclear plant, though, and it'll run for decades. Centuries, really, if you do it right. And with only producing a fraction of the nuclear waste current plants produce -- and that waste would only remain radioactive for a fraction of the time of current nuclear waste's lifespan.

But hey, yeah. Let's throw all our money at solutions that will need more money to rebuild in 5-10 years. Good call, Germany -- insert Nazi reference as example of good German governance here.

Re:Backup and fill-in (5, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358162)

Right, because nobody ever solved the problem of "how to clean a mirror", and plants like SEGS that have been operating for over a quarter century without a significant drop in efficiency, they're just lies and propaganda.

In fact, the *newest* section of SEGS is 21 years old, and still going strong.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358184)

I hope you're not serious.

You really think that re-polishing mirrors once in a while is such a horrible disadvantage that a nuclear powerplant is a better solution?

Sure, the dirt and scratches are a problem, but polishing stuff is not a new problem by any means. I'm sure that if we start building solar powerplants en masse, it won't take long for somebody to come up with a maintenance robot for those.

Thousands of identical mirrors, arranged in a predictable pattern can't be that difficult to clean and polish automatically. There have been advances in scratch resistant and self-cleaning hydrophobic glasses as well, which may find an use there.

And since we're talking maintenance, don't forget the need to demolish that powerplant eventually. No matter how well it works eventually it'll get old, or just plain obsolete compared to modern tech. And I hear that for nuclear powerplants, it gets quite expensive.

Re:Backup and fill-in (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358270)

Yes, modern nuclear plant is better. Base load, security, etc.

Yes, it is expensive for older plants. However modern design don't have those long term problems previous generation plants have.

There are reactor design that run off old waste, and the end product has return to background radiation level in 200-500 years. You could, quite literally, build the storage facility for it's wast as part of the plant.

Naturally, you should include the clean up as part of the price.

Personally, I would like to see the government start to build, operate and maintain these types of plants. Sell the energy at cost. Include take down as part of the cost.

Remove bonus incentive, C*O Pay, and board member approval will drop the cost to operate substantially. It will also make it safer, since there isn't an incentive to cut corners.

Re:Backup and fill-in (0)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358646)

Yes, modern nuclear plant is better. Base load, security, etc.

A molten salt solar powerplant is perfectly capable of providing base load, that's what the molten salt is for. Seems better security-wise too.

Yes, it is expensive for older plants. However modern design don't have those long term problems previous generation plants have.

There are reactor design that run off old waste, and the end product has return to background radiation level in 200-500 years. You could, quite literally, build the storage facility for it's wast as part of the plant.

Which design is that and where is it being used? Also, I meant disassembling the plant itself, the waste is another issue entirely. It seems to me that a nuclear powerplant is necessarily complex and difficult to safely dismantle, but I could be mistaken.

real numbers (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358914)

waste of real estate and too little energy. The Blythe plant output sounds impressive, until you realize it can't take sunlight 24x7. So divide its 960 MW by four or more. That's a tenth of the power of modern two reactor nuclear facility that would take up less than a square mile compared to the 12 square miles it occupies. Then realize its $6 billion price tag. Compared to nuclear power, it's a farce.

Re:real numbers (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359062)

waste of real estate and too little energy.

Most are in deserts, I don't think it makes for very good real estate for much else.

The Blythe plant output sounds impressive, until you realize it can't take sunlight 24x7. So divide its 960 MW by four or more.

I don't know about Blythe, and from googling it seems it'll use PVs.

Again, I was talking about solar thermal, and since it's going to store energy it would make sense that the turbines would run at full power 24/7, by storing the extra power during the day.

Then realize its $6 billion price tag. Compared to nuclear power, it's a farce.

Some googling suggests nuclear costs about 14 billion for about 2000MW [guardian.co.uk] , so the price seems to be about the same really.

Still, it seems a bit much to have solar cost that much. It'll probably come down in price when the tech is properly worked out, there's not a lot of those around yet.

Re:Backup and fill-in (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37359008)

The Canadian CANDU reactors can extra huge amounts of energy out of the waste from American reactors, and even more from disused nuclear weapons. The newer CANDU designs are even more efficient, less expensive (do not require enriched fuel) and have twice as many safety layers as other designs. They also attain higher uptimes because they can be refuelled without a shutdown (this part of the design also means that they cannot melt down, because new fuel must be constantly added to maintain criticality)

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358840)

What government in the history of the planet would you trust to safely store radioactive waste for 200-500 years?
And to safely regulate plants so they don't melt down?

It is so arrogant to take risks this big for not just yourself but tens or hundreds of generations of other humans just because you're too cheap to throw some solar panels on your roof today.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

slew (2918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359028)

Personally, I would like to see the government start to build, operate and maintain these types of plants. Sell the energy at cost. Include take down as part of the cost. Remove bonus incentive, C*O Pay, and board member approval will drop the cost to operate substantially. It will also make it safer, since there isn't an incentive to cut corners.

I don't really think this actually works in practice. The government will nearly always hire contracting companies to perform large scale infrastructure work often including a general contracting company (which is exactly what the typical Electric Company would do as they also usually don't have the experience to build nuclear power plants either). Generally the government doesn't even fully get involved in the financing (since they generally have to issue Bonds to do this which isn't the most efficient way to finance high-capital investments) and often must issue Equity to attract capital at low rates or maybe even offer loan guarantees or other tax advantaged incentives. This is the way it works in almost every country from USA, to France, to China, to Saudi Arabia...

Although the govt officials generally do NOT get bonuses or C*O level pay, the contracting companies tend to still operate that way and replacing board approval with civil service board approval isn't likely to improve any general accountability level in the employees or higher-ups (although perhaps cost slightly less).

As to the operational cost, often Electric companies sub-contract the operation of nuclear power plants and Electric companies are usually restricted on a cost+ basis (must only pass-on the actual cost of energy generation w/o markup to customers, only can charge for service provider related business operations).

Since the actual energy generation cost is factored out, it could be argued that governments might be better at providing service to customers, but experience has not necessarily shown this to be universally true either...

In short, I doubt having the govt do nuclear would be any better (and could be significantly worse). Just look at the US Post office attempt to get the govt to agree to let it stop Saturday delivery to save money and survive. In a non-govt company, this would probably have been done long ago, but with this quasi-govt company, you have to convince 535+2 elected officials who need to get re-elected...

restricted on a cost+ basis (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359170)

By 'restricted on a cost+ basis' you mean 'they can turn a profit redecorating the presidents office suite'.

It's not generally true anymore. Although everybody likes to talk about CA, electric power markets are more then likely running your computer today, most without incident.

Cost plus did produce electric companies that acted suspiciously like governments. The new model is much better. They are back to being competitive business'. No more running ancient plants because they were paid for.

Re:restricted on a cost+ basis (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359344)

I have to say, here in NE Washingon we have two counties: Spokane, which has a privately-run electric company, a large customer base(quite a bit of city area, which means high density). We also have Pend Oreille, which sits just to the north, is quite poor, has almost no city -- so there's much more wire runs per home -- and a government run PUD.
Which do you think has higher rates?
If you said "Spokane, by a factor of 3-4" you'd be right!
Oh, and as far as replacing generating equipment goes, Pend Orille has been doing quite a bit of refitting lately, and it brought the rates up... by a quarter of a cent. Which is still at least 3x cheaper than neigboring Spokane.
Now, please tell me how a private company running things can do better?

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359036)

What happens to a nuclear power station when it gets old?

What happens to a solar power station when it gets old?

Which is more dangerous, and what should the insurance cost?

Re:Backup and fill-in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358898)

Congrats on being the Godwin's Law champ of the day.

Re:Backup and fill-in (3, Insightful)

rhakka (224319) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358904)

are we glossing over that the "fraction of the time of current nuclear waste's lifespan" STILL exceeds the current lifespan of nearly every... modern nation?

It would be like if the "West Francia" had to bury nuclear waste. What, never heard of them? well gosh. I'm sure that pile of deadly, weapons-grade nuclear waste they left behind is around here *somewhere*.

Re:Backup and fill-in (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37359280)

Good call, Germany -- insert Nazi reference as example of good German governance here.

The Nazis were certainly a cut above what they have now.

Re:Backup and fill-in (2)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358240)

They do cool down over time especially if you are pulling heat off them.

There are other options for power as well such as Tidal, Ocean Currents,
the Jet Stream, and Geothermal seems to be working pretty well in Iceland.

The "Geysers" geothermal station have been running in California for many years as work well.

The Antarctic Circumpolar current alone has 100+ "TIMES" all the flow of all
the rivers on earth combined.

It alone could power the southern hemisphere.

The Aquanator was how it could be done fairly easy.

There is no large scale development of it thou because the green agenda
is fake, and they do not push for real sustainable energy, its all a ruse and scam.

Thus this small scale rollout and blocking wind farms like T. Boone Pickens.

It is going to have a very rugged price in the not too distant future.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358966)

The power output of any of those are too puny for a first world nation. Gnat farts compared to 2.5 GW of a modern nuclear plant. Even impressive maximum solar plant output have to be cut 75% or 80% to get total for 24 hours to compare to the steady output of a nuke plant.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358446)

That one in the article *is* in Sicily, though, which is roughly as far south as San Francisco.

I can't see it doing too well in northerly climes.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

trcollinson (1331857) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358066)

There are surges in power usage as well. I am not sure I see your point there. For example, solar power does not produce at night. True, but we can store the energy gathered during the day, during peak times, and during the most efficient portions of the day in various regions and then use it during those times when peak power is not high for the method of production. This isn't rocket science.

I happen to think that nuclear plants and to a lesser extent gas and coal power plants aren't as bad as they are being made out to be. But to say we need them because renewable or "green" sources are not stable is inaccurate. What we need in those cases are better and smarter grids for storing and handling the capacity needed versus the collection of power. And honestly, we need better and smarter grids even if we stick with purely coal powered plants.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358980)

There's a few other problems with solar: the farther north you go, the less light there is. And when you go far enough north, you don't even have days and nights any more; ask any Alaskan about this.

Remember, this article is about Europe, not the (continental) USA. Europe, despite its impressively mild climate, is actually quite far north. As another poster just commented, Sicily (about as far south as you can go in Europe) is at about the same latitude as San Francisco, which is considered somewhat northern here in the USA. Much of Europe is closer to the latitude of New England or Oregon and Washington, places not known for sunniness. Solar plants would probably work pretty well in the southern parts of Europe like Italy and Greece, but they wouldn't be worthwhile at all in countries like Sweden or Finland. They probably wouldn't work all that great in the UK either; that island is famous for its fog and clouds and generally nasty weather.

Re:Backup and fill-in (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359246)

Not to worry about Scandinavia. It will continue to be powered by clean, green, sustainable Vodka.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358082)

Most of the green energy sources are not viable by themselves. They're too unstable. Wind gusts cause surges for wind power. Solar doesn't produce anything at night...

Which is of course, why we have capacitors.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358284)

What? Do you even know how they work or what they are for?

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359180)

Capacitors are nothing more than rapid-discharge rapid-cycle batteries.

Re:Backup and fill-in (5, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358138)

Wind gusts do not cause power surges. Modern Turbines and windmills (the ones with the hundred foot long wings) spin at very low RPM. In high winds brakes are applied to keep the speed down because rapid rotation would destroy the windmill.

I just don't understand why people like you bring up a couple weaknesses of renewable energy then walk away like the only answer is non renewable fossil fuels. The real answer is sustainable energy production that uses multiple renewable sources. Base load from geothermal and nuclear, then you handle summer peak air conditioning load with PV and solar thermal, add in some wind for ~10% of base load, maybe some wave power for a few more percent. Some renewable gas generation from waste digestion (sewage or other organic waste), throw in Hydro where it's available and you have a system that's no entirely dependent on a single source of fuel. Not only that but you don't export several hundred billion dollars a year to hostile countries buying dino by-product to burn.

Energy generation is a national defense issue. Burning coal has made fish uneatable due to mercury content. Fossil fuels will run out someday and it is in the national interest to move away from non-renewable sources of energy because in the long run they will run out.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

Bensam123 (1340765) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358318)

Unfortunately the nation doesn't give a shit about the nation, they just care about themselves. And planning for 50 years down the road wont give them a couple extra 100 on their tax break each year.

The American zeitgeist is a terrible creature at this point in time. They only care about changing to look good. Hell the whole Obama campaign preyed on that. When it finally comes down to the nitty gritty they turn their head and move on with their lives.

Re:Backup and fill-in (3, Funny)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358488)

All you say is very interesting but how does it get me re-elected?

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358824)

>>Burning coal has made fish uneatable due to mercury content.

Isn't it great then, that Germany is eliminating green nuclear power plants and replacing them with coal?

Re:Backup and fill-in (2, Interesting)

tmosley (996283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359298)

Those fish aren't actually inedible. The mercury in 99% of saltwater fish is in the form of a non-toxic insoluble salt (it combines with selenium). This is why fish-eating nations like Japan aren't all dead of Mercury poisoning, and don't even exhibit the symptoms of low level chronic poisoning. Mercury on the land is much, MUCH more toxic and dangerous.

Re:Backup and fill-in (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359166)

I just don't understand why people like you bring up a couple weaknesses of renewable energy then walk away like the only answer is non renewable fossil fuels.

I can't speak for the other naysayers, and instead of fossil fuels I believe nuclear is the way to go for base loads despite the idiots in Germany. However, when someone brings up a "weakness" of a particular renewable energy, while you use the word "weakness" to make it seem like a small problem, it may actually be a deal-killer. I'm not totally familiar with the climate in Germany, so let me make up a different example: what if this article were about Finland? If someone brought up solar power in Finland, they'd rightly be called an idiot, because solar power simply wouldn't work there very well. It's too far north, and there isn't much sunlight. In fact, since it's roughly at the same parallel as Alaska, I would assume that they have the same problem Alaska does with sunlight, where for half the year, there's almost no daylight at all. The molten salt idea isn't going to get around that problem.

Same goes for wind power. Only certain places are windy. Putting up a giant wind generator in a place where there's never much wind is a stupid thing to do. Google "USA wind map" and you can actually see which parts of this country have a lot of wind, and which don't. Not surprisingly, wind farms are generally built in the windier places. Locations near the ocean are great for wind; there's lots of wind over oceans, which is why sailboats were the primary means of long-distance human transportation for so long. Other locations, not so much.

Or how about wave power generation? (That's where you generate power from ocean waves.) This works great for places where there's an ocean nearby, but what if this article were about Switzerland? You can't generate power from waves in a mountain lake. Germany doesn't have a whole lot of shoreline either.

This is the problem with a lot of renewable energy: it's extremely locale-dependent. What may work great in one country or region won't work at all in another.

The real answer is sustainable energy production that uses multiple renewable sources. Base load from geothermal and nuclear, then you handle summer peak air conditioning load with PV and solar thermal, add in some wind for ~10% of base load, maybe some wave power for a few more percent.

What do you do in the winter? Your suggestion sounds great for where I live, Arizona, except for the bit about wave power (I can assure you that won't work here). The vast majority of our power usage is during the daytime, especially in the summer, when it's sunny, so it's really quite shameful that we haven't advanced solar technology more than we have. However, I'm pretty sure this isn't the case in Germany: it's farther north, it's not that sunny, it probably doesn't get that hot in the summer, and it gets cold in the winter and at night.

But you're right: electricity needs to come from multiple sources, but for base loads, nuclear is easily the way to go: it generates tons of power, it's not variable like solar or wind, it doesn't pollute the atmosphere that we have to breathe, if you're not stupid (like the USA) you can reprocess the waste and get lots more use out of it and have very little radioactive waste left over; the only problem is it needs to be located somewhere safe and seismically stable (not next to the ocean where a tsunami will hit it! and especially not next to the ocean and right near a fault line that causes a tsunami!), and you need to be able to dump the waste heat somewhere, usually into a nearby river, which really isn't great for the ecosystem there, but it's still a whole lot better than coal. As for renewables, I'm not from Germany or all that familiar with the climate, so I don't know which ones would work well there, but I think it's safe to say that wave power is probably out except maybe for the very northernmost cities. Denmark could make much better use of it though.

Re:Backup and fill-in (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359364)

Under every square meter of the Earth's surface is an abundant natural resource of clean, sustainable baseload power. In every nuclear reactor are hundreds of metric tons of low-grade nuclear waste - not even including the fuel - that we have no plan whatsoever to dispose of, nor any idea how much that will cost. One of these things does not seem like a good idea.

Re:Backup and fill-in (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359224)

The real answer is sustainable energy production that uses multiple renewable sources. Base load from geothermal and nuclear, then you handle summer peak air conditioning load with PV and solar thermal, add in some wind for ~10% of base load, maybe some wave power for a few more percent. Some renewable gas generation from waste digestion (sewage or other organic waste), throw in Hydro where it's available and you have a system that's no entirely dependent on a single source of fuel.

++this;

I am quite surprised that many people - whether nuclear proponents or greenies - focus so much on a single pet tech that they have, and believe it to be the answer to all problems. Personally, I still haven't heard a good argument against using renewables where they are readily available, and even using them exclusively or predominantly where the opportunity arises (and, indeed, we have ample experience doing just that - look at US/Canadian Pacific Northwest, for example). Every pound of coal and gram of uranium burned for power when there was a renewable source that could provide for the same without being significantly more expensive is a criminal waste.

On the other hand, it is also clear that we can't expect to power everything that way short-to-medium term, especially when we finally switch from fossil fuels to electricity in cars. So we will need non-renewables in the foreseeable future, make no mistake about this; and nuclear is the obvious choice for that.

Re:Backup and fill-in (2)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358620)

Wind gusts cause surges for wind power.

This isn't a problem in modern turbines.

Re:Backup and fill-in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358698)

Coal and gas it is then.

Humans are not wise enough to deal with nuclear power yet. We like to think we are tho. Which makes it even worse if something goes wrong.

Efficient or not... It's still the only energy technology that can render an area useless and deadly for a very long time.

Until we get some space based microwave anyway... We could fuckup real nice with that.

Re:Backup and fill-in (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359220)

Some humans ARE wise enough for nuclear. They're called "French". They've been doing it well for decades, and don't show any signs of shying away from it like their neighbors in Germany and Italy.

Maybe everyone else should just hire the French to build and operate all their nuclear plants, because everyone else has shown themselves to be utterly incompetent (Russia->Chernobyl, Japan->Fukushima, USA->Three Mile Island). Even the Italians voted to not use it, but instead to purchase nuclear-generated power from the French, because they knew they were simply too corrupt to be able to do it safely. The French don't seem to have all these problems everyone else does. Corruption? Doesn't seem to be a giant problem there unlike Italy and their Mafia. Shitty old reactor designs? Not a problem unlike Russia and Japan. High costs from having every single plant being a totally unique design with no standardization? Not a problem unlike the USA. Refusal to lower costs and reduce waste by reprocessing fuel? Not a problem unlike the stupid USA where they've never thought of using armed guards to protect nuclear facilities, even though they do it all the time for military nuclear installations. Reactors located on seashores next to fault lines so that an earthquake shuts down the reactor and then causes a tsunami flooding it? Not a problem either, the French have enough foresight to locate their reactors inland.

Gah (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37357978)

slap those people down, Instead of stopping Nuclear power, why don't they use their brains and move to the next generation of nuclear power?
No, lets let FUD be the way we do things.

Idiots.

Re:Gah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358074)

Germany is a democracy. They do what the most easily manipulated 51% can be profitably manipulated to support.

Idiots.

Re:Gah (4, Insightful)

zzen (190880) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358094)

I agree. This story is such an excellent example of why environmentalism can be so dangerous and *must* be subjected to intense criticism, not adopted automatically "because that's what we should all do, right?".

It plays on people's fears, causes them to act irrationally and in the end can achieve environmentally negative results - as in the case of Germany introducing 20 new coal power-plants - the same that we've been so fighting so many years to get rid off, since they pollute the air and deplete non-renewable resources. (Yeah, my country neighbors with Germany, so I actually care about the resulting pollution.)

Yay! Progress... :(

Re:Gah (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358242)

I agree. This story is such an excellent example of why environmentalism can be so dangerous and *must* be subjected to intense criticism, not adopted automatically "because that's what we should all do, right?".

Such is the case with just about every group and their beliefs.

Re:Gah (1)

zzen (190880) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358302)

Such is the case with just about every group and their beliefs.

Yet most beliefs don't seem to attract the level of politically-correct-bullshit-hysteria-preventing-rational-discussion that environmentalism does. Which is what this article is about.

Re:Gah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358572)

Most?

Obviously you missed the Republican debate. Try Social Security, Schools, Crime, Immigration, Taxes, Sexuality, Marriage, and that's just the subjects that come off the top of my head.

Re:Gah (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358294)

This isn't a result of environmentalism. It's a result of idiots being scared by the Japanese earthquake.

Re:Gah (3, Insightful)

MimeticLie (1866406) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358768)

That's why it's happening now, but it couldn't have happened without decades of attacks on nuclear power by some environmentalists.

Re:Gah (1)

VitaminB52 (550802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358418)

It's sad to see some folks rather have the certainty of global environmental damage due to using fossil fuels instead of the possibility of localised environmental damage due to accidents with nucleair reactors.

Re:Gah (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358170)

Step 1: Build "next generation of nuclear power" plants.

Step 2: Profit!!!!!

Step 3: ??????

Step 4: Radioactive waste with 10,000 year half-life safely removed from environment. See step 3.

Step 5: Insure nuclear power plant. See step 3.

Re:Gah (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358186)

Tagged article Idiocracy, that's most of what I have to say on the matter.

Re:Gah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358288)

it's got electricalytes

Re:Gah (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359304)

France isn't stopping nuclear power, and can sell plenty of same to Germany.

Folly (2)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | more than 3 years ago | (#37357986)

There's no "sustainable" energy supply large enough to replace them without massive subsidies. Here in the UK we can expect 30% rises in bills over the next few years directly attributable to Green policy AND STILL we will need to build peak capacity using traditional sources. Moreover, this extra capacity cannot just be switched on or off. It needs to be running more or less constantly. In other words, the "sustainable energy" initiatives we are implementing are an extremely costly folly. To replace one coal fired power station with wind, for example, would require covering an area the size of Greater London with turbines. Total insanity. Regardless, Germany will build more coal fired plants and buy French nuclear generated capacity to replace its own.

Re:Folly (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358760)

The thing is, we're at peak oil now, and we're going to be peak coal in only about 20 years, so the cost is going up anyway, we either build out now, or later; and you may have noticed we've been held hostage by gas suppliers for example.

Your figure for how many wind turbines is also completely deceptive. The point of wind turbines is that they can be sited on farm land, and don't take up any significant land area; you can farm underneath without problems. The wind we have in the UK is actually enough to power the whole of Europe.

Re:Folly (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359138)

The wind we have in the UK is actually enough to power the whole of Europe.

I didn't realize Tony Blair was still in power.

10 GIGAWATTS? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358026)

The only thing that can make that much power is approximately 8.26 bolts of lightning!

Re:10 GIGAWATTS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358118)

I'm sure that in 1985 you can buy plutonium at any corner drug store.

Wrong direction (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358048)

So, Japan got hit by an earthquake and the reactor failed, shit happens, without risk there is no gain... and we are going to run out of coal, the wind sometimes stops blowing, and there are weeks when it's cloudy, wave energy doesn't solve japan's problem in the least bit rofl. We have a path to energy with little trade off granted safety precautions. We just need to do a better job with radiation containment,our current stuff is obviously not melt down proof. Oh well, not like Germany is going to be the ones responsible for a breakthrough anyways.

What happened to fusion research??? This was the solve all when I went to school, also probably the only viable means of space travel.

Re:Wrong direction (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359266)

So, Japan got hit by an earthquake and the reactor failed, shit happens, without risk there is no gain...

There's acceptable risks and unacceptable risks. Locating a nuclear plant on a seashore, next to a fault line, is not an acceptable risk, it's downright dumb. We've done the exact same thing here in the USA with a nuclear plant in California that was on the shore and right next to a fault line.

If you're going to do totally stupid stuff like this, you shouldn't be using nuclear power at all. Leave it to someone smarter, like the French, who apparently don't do these idiotic things and have been running tons of nuclear plants safely for decades.

Clean baseload = science fiction (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358068)

Unless/until we can develop some form of industrial scale fusion, any of the base load options (nuclear, gas, coal, oil) are going to be necessary and will come with a serious environmental price tag attached. Solar and wind need to be developed and widely used but absent some miracles in battery technology and/or transmission losses (high temp superconductors) they will have limits.

If Germany wants to use fossil fuels instead of nuclear that is their prerogative but they are simply trading one problem for another one, possibly worse than the original. I don't really understand what they think they will accomplish other than to mollify people who are (reasonably or unreasonably) terrified of nuclear fission.

Re:Clean baseload = science fiction (2)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358244)

I don't really understand what they think they will accomplish other than to mollify people who are (reasonably or unreasonably) terrified of nuclear fission.

I think that's exactly what they think they'll accomplish. Nuclear power simply has bad PR.

Me, I've been hoping for more work on solar power satellites ever since I read Gerard O'Neill's [wikipedia.org] book a couple of decades ago. (Note that part of what killed government interest in O'Neill's plans back in the '80s was the declining cost of energy!) But I agree that no one solution looks likely to meet our needs.

Re:Clean baseload = science fiction (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358500)

They just haven't traded problems. They traded their national security to Russia. They turn off the gas pipes, Germans will freeze to death.

Thank you Greens -- you did more to ruin German's national security than 40 years of active KGB activity.

promoting green jobs (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358110)

We tried promoting 'green jobs' here in oregon, with various tax and regulatory incentives. It was a failure... or, more properly, 'is' a failure, because it's still ongoing.

Nothing wrong with green jobs and alternative energy, as such; but they have to be generated organically from market forces and technological advances. If you attempt to force markets one direction or another with laws, you're going to end up with a less optimal economy. That happens with price fixing, tax subsidies, or any other type of coercion

If an alternative energy tech has matured to the point that it can compete with gas or coal in terms of demand and productivity, than it will naturally create jobs. If it hasn't, it's going to never going to be as good as what you're trying to replace.

Re:promoting green jobs (5, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358208)

Except that it's not a level playing field. Fossil fuels get heavily subsidized. According to this, (which I have not independently verified or checked sources on) solar would be cheaper if that was turned around. [suntimes.com]

At the very least "less optimal economy" seems like disingenuous or stupid way to judge the cost/benefit to me. The costs of global warming, asthma, coal-related deaths, and smog would massively tilt the scale in favor of green. We've let the economists and corporations convince us that fossil fuels' external costs will never ever ever have to be paid off though, just as we let economists and irresponsible politicians convince us that deficits don't matter.

Badass expensive (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358116)

Like all decisions driven by irrational fears, this is a bad move.
Germany already has some of the highest electricity prices in Europe (22 Cents/kWh versus 12 Cents/kWh in France, for example) and switching to super-expensive solar power and unstable wind turbines will prove to be eye-wateringly expensive, especially since there's very little energy storage capacity (eg. storage basins) and the existing energy transport infrastructure (ie. pylons across the country) is proving to be rather inadequate and has to be upgraded, naturally at huge economic and political cost (read: lots of NIMBY demonstrations).

Germans are very unrealistic about a lot of things (I'm German, BTW), and I think a lot of people are going to come down with a loud thump in this country when they're finally presented with the inevitable sky-high bills for all this energy utopia.

Hard figures: I'm reckoning on electricity prices of around 30 Cents/kWh in 5 years or so.

My 30 cents to the discussion.

Cheers,
Gerald

Re:Badass expensive (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358404)

You can buy electricity from France and put off the reckoning.

Short Sighted. The Cost of This is Going to be Bad (5, Insightful)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358166)

This will mean more and more hydrocarbons will have to be used to sustain the German economy. This is a hysterical political response from form uniformed and misguided environmental do gooders. I made an earlier post in another article about thorium reactors. These have no where the dangerous consequences of uranium/plutonium reactors. Thorium reactors have already been built in the US. But the reason why they never went commercial is because you cannot produce nuclear weapons from them in a practical sense.They better hope that fusion becomes viable soon. But I doubt it. People need to be more educated themselves and stop listening to lying politicians and self serving demagogues of fanciful ideologies.

China shows the way: one child family (2)

jclaer (306442) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358228)

Easy: One child family for 5 generations, population drops a factor of 32. Revert to burning wood.

Re:China shows the way: one child family (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358444)

Keep it at one child per family for long and enough and population drops to 0. Problem solved.

Green jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358250)

"Will it really mean more jobs in the 'green energy' sector?"

Of course it will. If the government mandates that energy be produced in some way, somebody is going to actually have to work to make it happen, whether that way is solar, wind power, or hamster wheel power. Somebody has to feed the hamsters and clean their cages. Of course, demanding a hamster powered economy may destroy millions of other jobs, and destroy trillions in value generally, but you will have more jobs in the "hamster energy" sector.

Not sustainable, not clean, and expensive (1)

cbarcus (600114) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358282)

For those looking at the energy crisis, it should be abundantly clear that we need to look at cheap carbon-free energy generation, and nuclear is the only feasible way to do that. Unfortunately, conventional nuclear technology has many problems from safety and inefficiency to cost and lack of scalability. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors address these issues and more, and every industrialized nation needs to look intently at this technology. It is the only way out of the conundrum of water shortages, Peak Oil, Global Warming, and all of the other energy related issues we now have. Ignoring reality is to embrace lower net energy, and therefore higher costs and the decline of civilization.

http://www.energyfromthorium.com/ [energyfromthorium.com]

http://reserveenergy.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358290)

Nuclear energy is the most efficient way to create electricity. Moving away from that means higher prices for the consumer (or higher taxes, which is basically the same).

If safety is the "concern", banning it will not solve any problem...will cause more...guess who will pay all those billions in Germany??? Will be spread among the 40 hs/week working people, in form of national debt, or taxes, or subsidies from the govt.

Cars crashes every day. Let's ban them! and then develop a green transportation system....

AFAIK, the role of the government is basically administer efficiently the country, making life EASIER for everybody.

Power purchase from france (1)

elbonia (2452474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358346)

Will they also stop buying power from France? It doesn't seem very green to cancel your nuclear plants only to keep buying nuclear power from your neighbor.

Re:Power purchase from france (2)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358684)

It doesn't seem very green to cancel your nuclear plants only to keep buying nuclear power from your neighbor.

Ah, but you're assuming Germany's anti-nuclear stance is evidence of a desire to follow a Green policy or to make power generation safer. It is not. It does, however, make for great political theater for the brainless masses to consume. "Nuclear BAD!" has become so ingrained on the consciousness of the masses that they just believe it without thinking.

Re:Power purchase from france (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359314)

Yeah well, I directly blame environmentalists of yesteryear for the "nuclear bad" thing. And I blame environmentalists of today for continuing it.

They're not dropping nuclear (5, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358396)

They aren't really dropping nuclear, they are exporting it across the Rhine to France. The analysis I've seen is the only way the Germans keep up with historic demand growth short of tanking their economy is to build more interconnects to France and let the French operate those horrible nuclear plants.

Re:They're not dropping nuclear (1)

aurelianito (684162) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358838)

They aren't really dropping nuclear, they are exporting it across the Rhine to France. The analysis I've seen is the only way the Germans keep up with historic demand growth short of tanking their economy is to build more interconnects to France and let the French operate those horrible nuclear plants.

That's the same thing I was going to say. When you ride the TGV from Luxembourg to Paris, if you look to your right, near the horizon there are 4 or 5 nuclear power stations (that look like the one at the Simpson's Springfield). This is just across the border between Germany and France.

It is even more puzzling that in the case of a nuclear accident there Germany may still suffer the consequences, but the french get all the revenue from theses nuclear plant. Maybe, just maybe, Germany just found a complicated way to subsidize France in order to give more strength to the European Union. That's the only rational explanation I can make besides "germans are stupid".

Re:They're not dropping nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37358936)

Yes and French fallout is never going to hit Germany if and when that happens. They'll say Sacrebleu! and the Germans will go Prost.

Re:They're not dropping nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37359194)

No way, electric power can't be transmitted that far! At least that's what ding-dongs like you claim when someone suggests using a power grid to average out local variations in wind power generation.

Re:They're not dropping nuclear (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359262)

WTF? I think wind should definitely be part of the equation, and that we should use pumped hydro to store excess wind power for the rare event where there's little to no wind across a wide area. We should also be doing tidal, thermal solar, geothermal, and whatever other renewable power generation we can invent. I've said for a long time that future generations are going to hate us because we have burned up a significant percentage of the complex feedstocks needed to make things like plastics, medicines, lubricants, etc. If you think I'm anti-renewable you need to check my posting history. I'm also pro nuclear because I'd much rather have modern nuclear plants than have Uranium ingested into my lungs from all the damn coal fired plants.

Well, there's the end of the Industrial Revolution (1)

drwho (4190) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358490)

yes, it was good while it lasted. Well for some of it. LFTR is the future, but we need the present nuclear power. Too bad Germany won't have it. Slaves to Russia.

Good grief.... (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 3 years ago | (#37358770)

I've always thought that the nuclear power plant disaster in Japan was the result of poor planning, not the fault of the technology itself. The plant went into emergency shutdown because of the quake but it was the tsunami that really did the damage because... they didn't think a tsunami that high was likely?!?!

I mean, come ON! Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world due to their location by the Ring of Fire. The place where the quake happened was only a possible location for a quake and unlikely to earthquake predictors but given the still uncertain nature of earthquake prediction 'possible' should mean 'most likely to catch you with pants down'.

Which it did and rather spectacularly at that. So instead of a smaller tsunami from further away like they hoped--yes, hoped since they had to know about the place that did quake--they got a much larger tsunami that overwhelmed their protection. So instead of covering ALL possibilities they went for a cheaper solution to protect their coastal nuclear power plant.

Lesson learned? Find worst possible point where an earthquake COULD happen (no matter how remote), plan for something in the 9.0-9.3 range, then add a safety margin on top of that ESPECIALLY when you have a vulnerable nuclear power plant by the water. Do not say--oh, but that's unlikely to happen there. It DID so that is not something you had ever hear from a manager under your employ. Also, make plans so that your fuel rods can be immediately neutralized if your coolant feed is buggered. I'm pretty sure there are new designs that take that into account but the Tokyo plant was an older design.

However, the government's reaction in Germany is way overboard. Germany isn't part of the Ring of Fire, unlikely to have tsunamis or powerful earthquakes. Unless someone's been heavily skimping on safety measures I see no reason to shut them down on the basis of environmental disasters that are unlikely to occur there. Also, isn't coal itself somewhat radioactive (all things are but remember this is compressed plant matter) and that burning large amounts will be dumping free radiation as well as CO into the environment? (and unlikely to be considered because who thinks coal is nuclear?) That's what shutting down the nuclear reactors was supposed to prevent, right? Gah.

Quite frankly, if they are that scared of the old designs, they are fairly old in tech terms, there are much more safer nuclear reactor designs now with the intent of ensuring meltdown is far, far less likely to happen if not impossible. The fact that I don't hear anything about such new designs is likely someone's either terrified of shadows or getting paid off or plain stupid or all of the above.

Coal? Really? (2)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#37359064)

Wait, what? While I thought doing away with nuclear in the hopes that solar and wind will be economical in the short term and not throw Germany's economy somewhere south of Greece was a bit hopeful, replacing it with coal? Really? Coal?

This isn't even environmentalism. This is just poor, emotional decision making.

Yes, technically coal is "renewable" via long term geological processes but you can breed crazy amounts of fissile material and recycle spent nuclear fuel so that's really not much of an argument.

Japan's new PM also intends to close down all of Japan's fission plants (though I didn't see a timetable) and I'm sort of worried that will just end up making more coal plants as well.
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